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Title: In hunting and furtaking, further providing for prohibition on Sunday hunting and providing for regulation of Sunday hunting by the Pennsylvania Game ...
Description: In hunting and furtaking, further providing for prohibition on Sunday hunting and providing for regulation of Sunday hunting by the Pennsylvania ...
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Wisconsin high school can't ban student's gun-themed T-shirts, federal judge rules :: 11/13/2018
A federal judge has ordered a Wisconsin high school to allow a student to wear his gun-themed T-shirts to class.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled Friday that Matthew Schoenecker is likely to prevail on the merits of his First Amendment case against the principal at Markesan High School. Adelman granted a preliminary injunction while denying the principal's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
"Even short deprivations of First Amendment rights constitute irreparable harm," Adelman wrote in a 15-page order.
Schoenecker, a sophomore at Markesan High School, sued in April after he was told to change shirts, cover them or spend the day in an isolated cubicle. The suit contends that a ban on shirts simply because they show guns infringes on his free speech rights.
It also says principal John Koopman's personal, case-by-case determination of which shirts are "inappropriate" violated Schoenecker's rights to due process.
The school district has since amended the dress code to specifically ban clothing depicting weapons, and Koopman told Schoenecker he even had to cover a shirt with the word "gun."
Markesan is in Green Lake County, about 30 miles west of Fond du Lac.
The shirts in question do not overtly promote violence. One spells LOVE out of a handgun, a grenade, two knives and an assault rifle. Another shows a variety of firearms above the phrase, "Celebrate Diversity."
A third was only text, which read, "IF GUNS KILL PEOPLE, I GUESS PENS misspell words, CARS make people drive drunk, and SPOONS make people fat."
Schoenecker says he wears the shirts to express his support for the Second Amendment.
The school argued that the exact message of the first two shirts is ambiguous, and therefore not protected expression under the law.
But Adelman said the fact the shirts are open to interpretation doesn't deprive them of First Amendment protection.
As to the "If guns kill people ..." shirt, Adelman wrote that phrase is a variation on a common argument advanced by gun-rights supporters.
"Thus, when he wears the shirt, the plaintiff expresses his personal belief on a matter of public concern. Expressing that belief is protected by the First Amendment."
Schoenecker and Koopman argued that different lines of U.S. Supreme Court decisions about school speech controlled the issue, but Adelman said a more recent ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals provided the best guidance.
In that case, a high school banned a student from wearing a shirt that read "Be Happy, Not Gay," to express his disapproval of homosexuality. The court found the school could censor the shirt if school officials could show it was reasonable to expect substantial disruption at the school if the shirt were worn.
Koopman tried to show that by noting Schoenecker wore the shirts after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school, that Markesan students walked out to protest gun violence and that instruction was delayed more than once as students discussed Schoenecker's shirts in class.
Plus, Koopman argued, after the suit was reported, many other news outlets came to the school for interviews and caused more disruption.
Adelman said the media didn't come because of the shirts, but because the school banned the shirts.
"The media would not have taken an interest in the plaintiff’s conduct had the defendant simply allowed the plaintiff to continue wearing the shirts."
The other reasons, Adelman found, gave only slight support to a ban. He said the record doesn't show any students felt threatened by the shirts, or that any teachers couldn't teach because of the shirts.
In addition to not showing substantial disruption would likely result from Schoenecker wearing the shirts, Adelman wrote, Koopman did not show that the school or the public would be harmed by an injunction allowing the shirts while the lawsuit plays out.
Schoenecker is represented by John Monroe, a Georgia-based gun-rights attorney who has represented several other plaintiffs in Wisconsin on open carry and concealed carry issues.
The lawsuit does not seek damages, but if the Markesan schools don't appeal, Monroe could seek attorney fees.
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